tv Prime Ministers Questions CSPAN July 8, 2009 7:00am-7:30am EDT
question the prime minister for a half hour. this week prime minister gordon brown is in italy for the g8 summit leader harriet harman is covering for him. this is live coverage on c-span2. >> and, therefore, any future legislation should be designed to dismantle the industry but make sure that the principles of fairness and equality still remain. >> well, mr. speaker, i don't accept or recognize the description that the honorable gentleman has given. there is a commitment to equality and indeed there is an absolute responsibility on public authorities to consider all their policies in relation to equality and indeed where it's felt that there might be an adverse impact that an equality
impact commission should be started. it's not that process but the practical outcome in terms of the lives that people lead and i hope in the future it will be hose practical outcomes that we focus on more than anything. >> order, questions to the prime minister. mall condition wicks. >> number one, mr. speaker. >> mr. speaker, i've been asked to reply. before i take my right honorable friend's question, i'm sure the whole house will wish to join me in sending our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the servicemen killed in afghanistan in the last week. they were lieutenant colonel thurman of the welsh guards. lance corporal david dennis, private robert laws of second
battalion, lance corporal dane, captain benjamin brown of 22nd engineer regiment royal engineers. and the soldier who was killed in helmand province yesterday. we owe these men and all who have lost their lives in service our deepest gratitude. they served our country and the people in afghanistan in desperately difficult situations ahead of the august presidential elections in that country. they will never be forgotten. mr. speaker, i hope that the house will understand if i take a moment to also offer for my condolences of the family and friends of those killed in the fire on friday. in answer to my right honorable friend, the government plans to publish a paper on care and support shortly. >> mr. speaker, i know that all members offer their condolences
who have lost those families both in afghanistan those brave men. given that the costs and care associated with the aging of our already elderly population is in many respects an unfinished chapter in the history of the modern welfare state. and affects many families in all of our constituencies. would the leader of the house agree with me that we now need to develop quickly a robust social policy that will allow the spreading of both risks and costs? >> i very much agree with my right honorable friend who ever since he was in the policy studies center has drawn the attention of the house to these issues with an aging population the number of those over 85 is set to double over the next two decades. this is a major challenge for families and it's a major challenge for the government. we'll bring forward a green paper which will have the
objective of ensuring that there is independence in choice, in the provision of services that there is the highest quality of services available to everybody and that it's affordable both by the individual, the families and for the public purse. >> mr. speaker, may i first associate myself with the remarks the right honorable lady made about those who lost their lives in afghanistan, but mr. speaker it's not the government's policy on funding of long-term care, accurately summarized as being to procrastinate and to delay. can the right honorable lady confirm that tony blair promised action, action on this subject to the labour party conference in october, 1997? since then, we've had the review, we had a zero-based review, we've had several comprehensive review and we had had no action.
when will the government deliver the action that the prime minister promised 11 1/2 years ago? >> this green paper is going to be a very important next step, but it is not true that we have taken no action since we've been in government, we've recognized the importance of family care. those who go out to work as well as care for older relatives and that's why we brought in the right to request flexible working for those who are caring for older relatives. that is action. that is why we've increased resources for the health services, for the many older people who need healthcare support. that's why we've increased resources for social services so that there is dom sillry care for people available to people who are independent in their own home as well as social services residential care. yes, we will take further steps.
we will consult on the challenges ahead but it is absolutely not true to say that we have made no progress over the last 10 years. we have. >> thank you, mr. speaker. may i join in offering condolences to those who have lost their lives at home and abroad and particularly trooper joshua who has a very large family in plymouth mourning his loss. my constituency is home to a large number of hard-working public sector workers, cleaners, cooks, healthcare, workers, administrators, public sector workers have an average pension of 7,000 pounds a year. did my right honorable friend understand their anger and their concern when those rather modest pensions and their modest pay come under attack as being somehow unfair or unreasonable? >> i agree with my honorable friend. we are strongly committed to public services. we're strongly committed to the work that public servants do,
particularly, those who work hard often for very modest incomes and we make no apology at all for pensions, public service pensions, remaining an important part of the remuneration package of public sector workers. >> mr. speaker, on behalf of the opposition, may i also send our condolences of the families of the six people including a 3-week old baby and two other children who died in such tragic circumstances in the right honorable's constituency on friday in an event that was disturbing to her constituents and the whole country. and i join her, of course, of paying for the seven servicemen who have been killed in afghanistan in the last week. soldier killed on tuesday and the others. private robert laws and trooper joshua who were just both aged
18 and the commanding officer of the first battalion welsh guards. given these casualties this week, should we not particularly remember this week that our forces deserve our gratitude and admiration. and is the government satisfied that everything possible is being done to provide the best possible protection and mobility for our forces there including the earliest possible increase in the number of helicopters and armored vehicles? >> the right honorable gentleman is absolutely right. that we must do everything possible to ensure the greatest protection for our troops in the field. and there is no complacency on that. we have increased the number of armored vehicles that have been procured and brought to availability for our troops but we're not going to be complacent. there must be more. we've increased the number of helicopters by 60% over the last two years but we recognize we should do more. and the reason why we want to do more, not only for their
personal protection but is in recognition of the importance of their mission in afghanistan. not only to that country but to the region and also for this -- the security of this country as well. >> well, then, mr. speaker, we all recognize it is important to do more and we will hold the government to the commitments that she has made. moving on to government policy more broadly, would she put into play in english for everyone the prime minister's assertion last week that total spending will continue to rise and it will be a 0% rise in 2013? >> well, the right honorable gentleman will know that all the figures are set out in the budget book. [laughter] >> and our commitment is very clear. we are investing now, public investment, to make sure that we help back up the economy, get through this recession to make sure that the recession is shorter and shallower than it would otherwise be. and that means backing out
businesses. it means protecting people's jobs. it means helping the unemployed and it means ensuring that people don't face repossession. and we are taking the action, and he wants to concentrate on numbers because he wants to avoid facing up to the fact that they have got proposals to cut public investment now exactly when -- mr. speaker, they have proposals to cut public investment this year just when the economy needs it most. and i understand that the shadow chancellor has revealed last week that he spends 40% of his time thinking about economics, it's amazing that he spends 40% of his time thinking about doing absolutely nothing. >> perhaps the leader of the house could spend 100% of the next minute trying to answer the question. [laughter]
>> that she was asked about what the prime minister meant by a 0% rise. is it not now clear that every single word of the assertion that he made last week is wrong? that total spending is not going to rise. and that there would not even be a 0% rise as he bizarrely called it 2013 about the figures she mentioned in the government's own books show that there would be a fall. and since so many supporters of the government are now calling for honesty about spending, shouldn't she find it in herself to do what the prime minister refuses to do, which is to actually admit the facts of the government's own figures. will she come down on the side of reality and so that on the government's own figures, total spending is set to fall. >> well, our honest and committed view is that we need -- is that we need to
invest now to backup the economy in order to make sure that the situation not only for individuals who've worked hard to build up their businesses -- not only to protect them but to make sure that the situation is not worse in the longer term and how telling it is that they only want to talk about figures in five years' time to distract attention away from the action that they do not back up that we are taking now. >> well, there's no need to talk about the figures in five years' time. since the government's own figures show that capital spending will fall from 44 billion pounds this year and fall every year to 22 billion years in four years time isn't the point that capital spending is being halved an absolutely indisputable fact? >> i think that the right honorable gentleman knows full well that the reason for the
figures is because we are bringing forward capital spending. we are not cutting capital spending. we have increased it and we are bringing it forward because just as -- for example, the private sector construction industry is facing dire times, we think it's right to bring forward capital investment in public construction, not only for the sake of the children's centers and the schools and the hospitals and the homes that will be built but also because of the jobs that it will create. and the truth is, there is a big distinction between while we are investing and bringing forward that capital investment, they would actually pull the plugs on the public sector just when the private sector is struggling. >> mr. speaker, the statement by the leader of the house that we are not cutting capital spending, when the government's own figures show capital spending declining, from 44 to 22% is exactly the sort of
statement that damages the credibility of politics and the credibility of this government. it is no wonder they are abandoning their strategy when ministers won't admit that 22 is half of 44. is she aware that the figures from the institute of physical studies show that the level of capital spending from 2013 as a proportion of national income would be below the average for the whole 18 years of the last conservative government. that is the capital spending that they are intending to deliver. and isn't it also true that the huge increase in debt interest and the rise in unemployment on the government's own figures mean it's also a indisputable fact means it means to departmental spending lead to over the last four years. why can't she admit the facts >> he mentions capital spending and i made it clear that we're bringing it forward. he mentions unemployment and we are taking the action to protect
people's jobs and unemployment would be growing if we have made the cuts that he's suggesting and when it comes to the estimates on unemployment, let me say that our estimate is that if we hadn't taken the action that we've taken to back up business and protect people's jobs, there would have been 500,000 more people who would have lost their jobs if we hadn't taken the action and once again, he talks about figures in 2013 and 2014 and let me say to him that the action that we are taking now we'll make sure that the public finances are in a better position because we will prevent the recession being deeper and longer. >> mr. speaker, if the right honorable lady police capital gains isn't cut it's no wonder the government is deeply out of touch with the people of this country and with the condition of the economy. isn't it the case that any
government elected over the next election is going to inherit public finances in an unbelievable mess after 12 years of a prime minister who spent everything in the boom, who thought the bust would never occur, who believed it abolish the economic title now capital spending is being cut, total spending is being cut, departmental spending is set to be cut, those are the government's own plans and aren't those labour cuts being brought in by a labour chancellor made necessary by the actions of a discredited labour government over the last 12 years? >> we have rebuilt hospitals over the last 10 years. we have rebuilt schools. we have paid down debt and we are now facing the challenge -- yes, yes. >> i apologize for interrupting the leader of the house. there is simply far too much noise. the right honorable members need to calm down. leader of the house >> and, yes, we have paid down debt so that we have the second
lowest debt in the g7. and we are responding to the challenge of this recession. and the truth is, it's the opposition that are embarrassed about their past, failing to face up to the challenge of the president and have nothing to offer the future. >> thank you, mr. speaker. mr. speaker, fortunately, i associate myself with the words of condolence for the brave and professional soldiers who have gave their lives in afghanistan last week and those who lost the lives in that tragic event in their constituency. the scottish enterprise have joined in supporting the watt force and my constituency in the plant. 700 of them. and those who work in the
distribution plant nearby. in seeking to persuade that company and indeed we're joined by members across the house in scotland seeking to persuade them not to destroy two decades of profit making contribution to their business in the name of improved shareholder value. will my right honorable friend join them and will she pledge her support to that country? >> i know that right honorable friend is meeting today and we'll be urging him to think again about the proposed closure of their plant as my right honorable friend requests. this announcement is very bad news for the workers and their families and will be a body blow there. my right honorable friend will be seeking an assurance to commit to looking seriously at
alternative options, the workers and scottish enterprise come up with. >> to vincent cable? >> could i add my condolences to the families of the seven brave servicemen who died in afghanistan and also to those of the victims of the fire. in welcoming the minister back to her temporary job running the country, can i just express the hope when she was briefing the prime minister for his talks with his friends she remembered to close an italian translation of her progressive views on gender equality. [laughter] >> my question is about public sector pay. how does the government expect low paid public sector workers when she is rightly just defended to accept restraint and in an environment where the government is allocating to
senior management, senior civil servants, large salaries, generous pensions and very large bonuses averaging 10,000 pounds a head? >> we've made it clear that we expect to see restraint at the top of the public sector. it's very important in difficult times that those in leadership position in the public sector take responsibilities and are responsible. >> why is it that two-thirds of all senior civil servants expect to receive bonuses to get out of bed in the morning? it's a principle. and can i address the issue of the most highly paid public servants which are those who are work inpublicly owned and guaranteed banks. why this the government simply not stop bonuses within those banks. these are publicly owned banks. owned by the taxpayer. why doesn't the government simply say no?
>> well, the government has made very clear indeed that we want to see an end to recklessness where people have enriched themselves while gambling with other people's money and have given themselves big bonuses as rewards for failure. we've made it clear that we expect action from the finance services authority and the chancellor will be making a statement about that shortly. >> thank you, mr. speaker. until very recently, i had the great honor of being a trustee of the much respected u.k. youth parliament where they've been working very hard on bringing together proposals for a consultation to reach about a million young people aged between 11 and 18 to get their views on politics and democracy. will she help me to support the u.k. youth parliament to get this very, very important consultation out and make sure that this project is successful as all of us need it here to be? >> i agree with my honorable friend that we need to do
everything we can to increase the involvement of young people in politics and i congratulate her on the consistent work that she's done on this issue. i think it's very important indeed that at last this house has decided that when the house is not sitting, the u.k. youth parliament can use this chamber and you never know when we see the way they conduct their proceedings we might even learn something from them. >> andrew george? >> thank you, mr. speaker. it has been satisfying government house-building strategy by growing faster than anywhere else. more than doubling its housing stock in the last 40 years yet the housing problems of local people have got dramatically worse over that time rather than grinding on another 20 years of a failed strategy which has turned it into a developer paradise building unaffordable housing. could the government give them the power on meeting the now desperate need of local families?
>> well, i think we want to make sure that his region -- that his county of cornwell does not have only the power but the resources to make sure that there is more affordable housing for rent and for people to buy. and that's why in the budget this year, we announced nationally a further 400 million pounds to provide 9,000 more homes to rent or to buy. and in building britain's future which we announced last year, we put forward a further 1.5 billion pounds over the next two years so that we could have 20,000 energy-efficient, affordable homes for young families. some of which i'm sure will come to cornwell. >> thank you very much, mr. speaker. can i tell my right honorable friend on monday while some conservatives were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the end of the labour scheme with the guest speaker of that architect,
11 my dock workers have been told their jobs will be ended, take up on the casualization of them. when lord fowler gave an assurance that there would be not casualization and would you encourage to the employers to go back to the negotiation table so that we can ensure continued employment for the future. >> well, that i know my honorable friend fights hard for the dock workers and for those industries that are dependent on the docks in his constituency, and i will raise the question that he's asked me with my right honorable friends, the ministers in the relevant department and ask that they should meet him to discuss taking that forward. >> the seven soldiers killed in afghanistan who's names she gave us at the beginning of this question session bring to about 170, in fact, exactly 170 the tragic total of those killed in afghanistan since 2006.
many people in my constituency are starting to doubt the wisdom of this war. and i wonder if she could remind us just precisely what our is our military objective in afghanistan? >> i think that the honorable gentleman makes a very important point indeed. and i think that we don't want anyone to be in any doubt about the importance of this mission in afghanistan. it is important to make sure that in the mountainous regions in afghanistan and pakistan we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism which threatens not only the people in that country but threatens the region and indeed the whole world. i think that this mission is important to -- for the education of people in that country. there are now 6 million children in school in afghanistan where in early 2001, there was only 1 million children in school. our troops have paved the way, working with the other
international forces to make that possible. they are paving the way for economic development for a more secured democracy as well as security in the region and the world and i think that we are very clear -- we want to make clear to our soldiers, to their families and to people in this country that we have no doubt about the importance of the mission in afghanistan. >> thank you, mr. speaker. my right honorable friend is aware at the moment that we have har pressed families and businesses alike struggling to pay the price of fuel at the pump. it has gone up substantially. would she look to having a conversation with the prime minister and the chancellor to see if she can scrap or at least defer the duty increase that's due to come in september? >> well, i think there is a real concern about the increase in fuel prices, not only the cost of petro at the pumps but also the effect on people in their homes and businesses of the increase in the oil prices.
we've together make sure that there is fairness. that we protect the people from the increase in price rises, that there's proper transparency and that there's help for those who struggle to make ends meet >> thank you, mr. speaker. over 300 members of parliament have signed the early day motion on equitable life seeking justice for equitable life policyholders. there's a vast majority holders of the mps have joined the group seeking equitable life which i chair. unfortunately, sir john chadwick who has been appointed by the government to review the compensation scheme refuses to come before us to interact with us. with she use her good offices to ask him to reconsider so that he can be accountable to us and through us to the british people? >> well, we all believe there should be justice for the equitable life holders for the
mismanagement that stretches back to the 1980s and also for a failure in the regulatory system for which the government has apologized and recognized the need to set up compensation. and in order to establish how we should do that following the ombudsman report, we've asked sir john chadwick to report on making progress on setting up a framework for compensation . the chief secretary to the treasury gave a statement to the house. there have been debates in westminster hall and we will make sure the house is updated. this is a very, very important issue and we will make sure there is justice for equitable live policyholders. >> thank you, mr. speaker. may i welcome the plans and funding set forward last week to enable local authorities to build 150,000 new council houses over the next 10 years. does she have plans to ensure that those houses will be built
to the highest sustainability standard and the highest possible level for the code of sustainable homes? will she ensure that local -- new local authority house-building becomes an exemplar for a sustainable and low-energy housing? >> i think my right honorable friend is right. the importance of this new affordable home-building program under building britain's future is not only the homes that it will provide, not only the jobs that will then be thereby created but also that these will be homes which help reduce carbon emissions and help people who live in them cut their fuel bills. so those issues that he raises will be addressed in the building britain's future program. >> thank you very much, mr. speaker. in march the prime minister told us to expect a statement on compensation for sufferers after easter. after easter the justice secretary told us we would expect a statement before the summer recess. that's now two weeks away. can we have assurances there will be a statement in the next two weeks and